New member here.
I took uni-ing up when my dad bought me one for x-mas-1980ish.
I didn’t know what to think of it, but if my dad thought I could do it, I was going to give it my best shot.

It was slow going, not knowing at all how to ride, but by spring thaw I was adequate enough to attempt it outside. Going across the driveway felt like 2 miles since I was used to hanging on the basement pole!

I soon wanted to try a giraffe. I found a book on unicycling at my elementary school library that had a section on modifying bikes. I cut up a child’s bike that was being thrown out for spring cleaning.
I made a 24"er about 5ft tall. Of course I wanted to ride it as soon as possible. I had a driving sprocket at 22 teeth. the sprocket on the hub was 17t. I knew I wanted 1 to1 drive, but the bike store was closed till Monday. I put the flat seat on it from my trainer and with a ladder set up in the street, I was on my way! With the short crank, and gearing of 31", I kept lifting myself off the seat trying to control it.
My Dad and I think the chain binded by ridding up the sprocket, because the wheel locked, I didn’t have time to catch myself and I went down fast! I blacked out for an instant and then my forearms were on fire! They weren’t broke, but even 2 weeks later when I started 7th grade, I could barely hold a pencil. It was a good year before I had strength in my arms again.(I just looked up this type of injury and it seems I damaged my radial nerves).
This worried my dad and he mentioned me dropping the crank down to the wheel to shorten the uni up. I had the bug and was determined to ride it as tall as it was. I found the longest crank I could(garbage find), took a banana seat and shaped it into a “U”. Popped a 21t on the hub(25"gear) and had no more mishaps.
A couple years later I wanted to build a giraffe as tall as I could manage so I started jumping off things…cars, fences, whatever, until my feet hurt on landing. This told me how high I could go. Turns out to be 7ft. Frame made of conduit. I swapped crank, seat and wheel from the 5 footer. I was able to get a unicycle crank sprocket(26t). With a 22t hub(28.3"gear) I had a tall, fast cruising machine!
Well, all this was 28yrs ago. I still have them all and hop on the trainer about every 2 yrs. Anyhow, I decide to look for uni’s on the web last week, and…


Mountain Uni’s??.. 2 Speed hubs??.. Handlebars??.. 150 mile days??..

I feel small now, just going in circles or down the street…
I think I want to ramp up to speed, so to say. I’m looking at picking up a 29er.

So, that’s my story. Looks like a good bunch of guys in here!

Hi Terry,
Welcome on the forum. :slight_smile:

Don’t feel overwhelmed by all the reports here. Everybody drive their passion to the full as you did and it is just the results :wink:

Nice experience nonetheless and even today you can be proud of your own accomplishments (especially including uni building ).

Thanks for the welcome Siddhartha.

I plan on learning to hop. I need a strong ride for that. My giraffe has a solid iron crank, but the trainer is kinda cheap. I’ve tried little hops, but it can’t take much.

Welcome Terry. Nice giraffe builds.

I started in 79 and then stopped for 25 years. But after I got back into riding I developed Radial Tunnel Syndrome from UPDs. It’s better now but nerve damage sucks. So make sure you get some good wrist guards.

Enjoy riding again, it is a blast.

LOL That is exactly how I felt when I got back on after 30 years. Welcome to the group!

I imagine this is a very common injury for unicyclist.

I will be turning 49 this year. Surprising that there are quite a few of us in the late 40’s, early 50’s that are getting back into this lost sport.


Yes, I think it is great that a lot of older guys are enjoying the sport.

Welcome to the forums. You are right, it is a great bunch of guys (and gals) here. It’s like a small town where after a while you might not know everyone but you probably know their uncle…

My number one piece of safety equipment is a good pair of wrist guards/gloves. We fall on our hands a lot. Normally I would recommend the ones made by Kris Holm since my old pair was great but the newest pair I received have a really weird fit.

Welcome Grizbach! Looks like we had similar beginnings in unicycling. While I started to learn to ride in 1976(-ish), that picece-of-junk unicycle fell apart and I didn’t get to ride a “real” one until late '79. My original learning took place in the basement, and progressed to the driveway.

Even my house and driveway looked very similar to that orange one in your pictures, which apparently was your neighbor’s. Where did all this take place? Here’s a pic of my old house and early learning spot in Livonia, Michigan: Invisible Unicycle

I got into giraffes early, having used one to re-learn in 1979. But yours looks pretty cool. When you wrote “conduit” I thought it probably didn’t last long, or rode like a piece of spaghetti! But yours actually looks pretty solid.

I started “mountain unicycling” in 1981, and still do it today, when I get the time. Most Road riding now. Welcome back!

Yes, I should get protection before it’s too late.
Thanks for the recommendation.

Small world! I grew up in Fraser, MI. From 1968-1992.

That’s a great web page you have there!
I love the shot of the uni on the back of the VW!
I’ve thought of making my own wheel like you have(45") with the wheel chair rubber. You say its a hard ride?

That conduit giraffe is really strong. That was the first conduit project I did. It’s a favorite building material of mine.
I built a recumbent out of it, cannibalizing my 1980 sears 10speed. I put a lot of miles on that bike, before and after the transformation.


Hi Terry! I followed your link in the “What age did you learn to ride?” thread. I love your pics! I’m new to the forum so I didn’t see them 'til just now. I think you all have me interested in building a giraffe! Thanks for sharing, and I think your gear ratio info will be helpful! -Jen

Hey Jen, giraffes are simple to make if you have a bike to start with.
I wanted a 24" so it would roll over stones in the road easier.
The larger you can make your crank sprocket, the less strain will be on the chain. Go too big and you risk getting your pant leg caught up in it.
As long as you don’t make the ratio 1 to 1, you won’t have to worry about getting a bald spot on your tire.

Keep us updated!

Replying to your post a few months late…

Not too far from Livonia, where I lived from 1968-1984

It’s a harsh ride, like a road bike tire with 200 lbs of pressure in it. But you can swoop and spin like crazy. It’s best in parades. You might even be able to make the rim out of conduit, though I’d go for something stronger for your safety.

I may have already mentioned this, but there is a unicycle club in the Livonia/Redford area (RTUC). Not super close to you, but probably the nearest place to connect with a bunch of unicyclists. That’s where I got the unicycle world opened up for me (back before there was an Internet)… :slight_smile:

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